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FICTION on the WEB short stories by Charlie Fish

I Am Lucky
by Don Fraser

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I was born on a large horse ranch in Kentucky. My mother and father were great racehorses. I was bred to be a great racehorse also. I started my training when a nice man put a halter on me, he taught me to lead and follow him. But my mother was always at my side to protect me. When the man let my mother and me out in the pasture, I would run and play with the other foals of that year, while our mothers ate the tender grass. But all the while, they kept one eye on us. They just didn't want us to get hurt.

The owner of the ranch had a little girl, I learned her name was Betty. Betty would sit on the top rail of the fence and watch us play. She seemed to enjoy it so much that we would put on a show for her. We would buck and run to get more attention from her. I think I was the worst. When the others quit and went to suckle their mammas, I kept bucking and playing. Out of the corner of my eye, I could see Betty clapping her hands and laughing at my antics.

Just before my second birthday, the ranch trainer (his name was Albert) started to train me to be a racehorse. He put a saddle on my back gently and I didn't buck. Then he put a bit in my mouth, it felt strange at first, but I learned to accept it.

The next day a light young man got on my back. It frightened me but I didn't buck. I could tell he was well experienced by the way he was so gentle with the reigns of the bridle. When he got off of my back, I thought I was a racehorse like my mother and father were. Boy was I fooled. There was a lot of training to do and I didn't know it.

The light young man got on my back every day, he taught me to trot and to walk and gallop. Oh how I wanted to show him how fast I could run. After all, I was the fastest colt in the pasture. But the young man held my bit tight and wouldn't let me run. Then came the day he rode me to the ranch race track. He was sure to let me show my stuff now. But no, he just let me gallop around the track very slow. I guess it was part of my training to be a racehorse, but I so wanted to run.

The young man kept making me just gallop and trot for what seemed like an eternity. And then one day he let the reigns loose, I felt them go slack on my neck, and then I felt a sharp pain on my hip. The young man had hit me with his whip and clucked at me, now I could show him how fast I could run. I pinned my ears back and took a deep breath and took off. I was out of breath when the trainer appeared at the rail of the track. The young man told the trainer, this horse is fast.

Two days later I was loaded into a trailer and shipped to the racetrack. A nice man that was the trainer for my owner unloaded me. He had a young man teach me how to run out of a starting gate, who would time me at different distances. He always would shake his head when I was through being timed. I thought he did that because he couldn't believe how fast I could run.

Then came the day I heard one groom say to another: This horse will run in a race in two days, the boss has entered him. That was the longest two days of my life. I could hardly wait to show them how good of a racehorse I was. I would be just like my father and mother were.

The day of the race had come. I wasn't given anything to eat. They took all of the straw out of my stall, but it didn't matter, all I could think of was running as fast as I could. The groom and the exercise boy took me over to the saddling paddock, my owner and the ranch trainer were there. The race track trainer saddled me as the groom held my reigns. The jockey came out of a room, and as the trainer and the jockey talked, the groom walked me around the paddock.

The trainer and some other man put the saddle and bridle on me. And then the groom walked me around the paddock some more. But this time I saw smiling Betty. She was a little older now, but just as pretty. The groom brought me back to where they put the saddle on. I think I stood there for just a minute, and then I heard someone yell, "Riders up!" The trainer helped the jockey get on my back; the groom led me out to the racetrack. He handed the reign to a lady on a saddle horse and she took me out to the racetrack in line with all of the other horses in the race.

After all of the people in the grandstand saw us we separated, some of the horses and riders, kept walking, others just trotted, My rider had me gallop just a short ways and then he had me walk, all the time the lady was holding my reign. I think she knew I wanted to run a hole in the wind. As we walked up to the starting gate, a man took the reign from the lady and led me into the starting gate. I was the first horse they put in, so I would have to wait for the other horses to be loaded.

It seemed like an eternity for those horses to be loaded. Let's get it on, I said to myself. They put a horse next to me that reared and his jockey got off of his back, they brought the horse out and looked him over to see if he had any injuries, they looked all over and saw none, so they put him back in and the jockey got back on. While this was going on, I was getting more excited by the minute. Finally they got all of the horses loaded into the gate.

What seemed like an hour later the starter started us, the bell rang and the gate in front of me flew open. I was ready, I got out of the gate first. As I was running as fast as I could, the jockey was pulling on my bit very hard, as I went around the first turn I was still in front. The jockey was still pulling on the bit as we hit the back stretch, but I wouldn't slow down. I was going to win this race or die trying. I went around the far turn in front. And when we hit the stretch I was in front five lengths. And then it happened. I got very tired, one horse passed me and then another and another, and then I was last, I crossed the finish line that way.

The trainer entered me in two more races I finished last in both of them. The trainer being an honest man, phoned the ranch owner and told him he was wasting his money trying to make a racehorse out of me. So the owner sent a trailer to get me and take me home.

When the trailer pulled up with me in it, I saw Betty, she was all smiles, and her golden hair shined in the sunlight like heaven itself. When they unloaded me from the trailer, Betty put her arms around my neck and said, "I don't care what they say about you, I am proud of you anyway." Mom and Dad, I didn't make a racehorse, but I have a friend for life. Betty.

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